I have been reading a few scribes player ratings for last night’s match and there is a great deal of similarity in the best and worst of what was generally regarded as another poor show when we failed to turn up. The most common reason for it is the “November Curse”.
What annoys me about that is that if you repeat something often enough, people begin to believe it. If that was to be the case, then it would be a good excuse for Wenger and his coaches to hide behind. It is an anomaly which attacks the mentality of our teams (of all levels) for which there is no explanation and therefore no means of correcting it. How convenient. The same excuse could be used for the times when we get slaughtered by Man City, United, Chelsea and Liverpool. Perhaps it is a gypsy curse? How do we counteract such paranormal activity? Well, dear reader if that is your inclination then in future I shall not leave the house during a full moon and I will wear garlic on my lapel.
In a more scientific manner, I have to say that there were similarities in our performance on Wednesday night and those of recent vintage ( PSG, Man Utd. ).
The general impression was that we passed the ball around nicely until we were challenged, then we looked for sideways or backward passes to maintain possession. Meanwhile Foster in goal was painting his fingernails and admiring his face in the mirror to while away the time. In other words we were completely ineffective. Our forwards carried no threat and our midfield was without any sort of plan, either to resist their advances, or to provide support to our attack. The back four suffered from the same malaise as the first team. Both full backs came of second best in their challenges on their wingers. In Jenkinson’s case, in a two-horse race he came 4th every time. Any winger or wing-back with pace and mobility can twist him inside out.
Holding and Gabriel started promisingly and Holding is definitely a star in the making, but they were too far apart to form a united obstacle to their threat down the centre. Whether or not their performance affected Martinez I don`t know, but he was decidedly hesitant and slow to react to threats from their forwards. We scrambled the ball away on several occasions when he should have gathered the ball with better positioning and anticipation.
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I won`t analyse every players performance because I believe that the poor performance in general lies squarely at the feet of Wenger and Steve Bould. I don`t know how much responsibility Bould has for tactics in the defence and midfield but when you consider that he was already a well-established Centre-back who played with the best defenders in Europe before Wenger arrived, he shows no perceivable ability to coach a discipline or a tactical plan into players who should be skilled professionals and well able to understand instructions. Time after time he sits impassively in the dugout, chewing gum beside Wenger and it is a rare event when I see him conversing with him when we are under the cosh. It is like watching Napoleon at Waterloo, when the tide has turned against him and his generals sit motionless while the chaos continues. Wenger is in the same situation. If he is too arrogant to listen to wise advice, then it is his own fault, and as always happens, his lack of tactical nous is seized upon by more talented adversaries who simply pick his team apart by better plans and better tactics to employ them.
The failures of our first team were all on display last night. It was easy to perceive the two ranks of four across the midfield and the back but it was just as easy to see that they were not working as a combined unit. Instead, individual players were repeatedly dragged out of position leaving gaps such as the one which Claisie punished with his canon ball of a shot. Bertrand was also able to pick a gap to fire in his goal. In reply, the Ox had a gilt edged chance to score but he skied it over the bar from 5 yards. Apart from that, I don`t think Foster had a shot to save.
It cannot be coincidence that the faults of the first team are replicated in the reserves. It is easy to boo the players off the pitch as some people did last night, but although it could be said that they did not turn up, I would suggest that they did. Unfortunately they had been provided with no plan or no instructions from the coaching staff which would have given them something to work at. I don`t need to describe what those tactics should have been. There are many coaches who know more about that than I do, but I see evidence from clubs who on paper are much inferior to us, yet still manage to frustrate our tippy tappy football with well-schooled tactics to absorb our attack and break through the gaps left behind.
Is it not time that these issues were properly addressed? We could spend millions on players but there will be no improvement until proper tactics are used to maximise their abilities.